--- Click here to read previous letters from John Currie
Dear Wildcat Nation,
Catbacker season has officially begun and this week our 33-stop tour across the state kicks off in Western Kansas with stops in Dodge City followed by Garden City, Scott City, Colby and Hays. Our Catbacker program is one of the best college fan tours in the country and it is fun to be out on the road with our president, alumni president, foundation president and our coaches and staff visiting with K-Staters and talking about Kansas State University.
This week also marks the annual Big 12 men’s and women’s basketball meetings. Coach Patterson, Coach Martin and I will be in Dallas for those before heading to the Scott City event on Wednesday.
As you may have read, the Big 12 and Pac-10 athletic directors and commissioners met informally for a few hours last week in Phoenix to discuss different ideas and potential synergies. This was the latest in a series of proactive steps and communications over the last year or so that we have taken to continue to strengthen the position of K-State and the rest of the Big 12 relative to both conference alignment and our next round of television negotiations.
It is important to remember that the Big 12 currently has two separate national agreements, the largest of which is with ABC/ESPN and primarily covers broadcast football and cable/broadcast basketball. This agreement runs through the 2015-2016 year, while our FSN cable football package runs through the 2011-2012 year. Essentially the focus of the Big 12 pertaining to television is to how to best navigate the marketplace for our next cable negotiations (next year) while positioning ourselves properly for the 2015-2016 phase.
Currently the average annual value of our league's total TV package is $80 million which places us behind the Big Ten and SEC, but ahead of the ACC ($67 million), Pac-10 ($53 million) and Big East ($33 million). The ACC's contracts expire this year and they are likely to be announcing the results of their negotiations in the very near future.
So what does all this mean for K-State?
First, we believe in the continued viability and strength of the Big 12. As I said in my last note I have confidence in our commissioner, president and AD's and am very encouraged by our ongoing dialogue. Should there be changes in our membership roster, I believe the extended core of the league will remain intact and committed to a future together. There are plenty of institutions in various leagues around the country who would love to be in the Big 12 if we decide that expanding (or replacing a member who departs) is in our best interest.
During my time recently visiting with AD's, bowl partners, TV executives, presidents, and other college athletics stakeholders, I am regularly reminded of how much K-State is respected nationally and of the relevancy of our brand - thanks to the awesome support of our fans and efforts through the years of our student-athletes and coaches. There is absolutely no question in my mind that K-State will continue to be amongst the "big leagues" of college athletics.
Second, our focus should be on creative approaches that are best fits for our leagues and institutions rather than trying to merely copy or match what the SEC or Big Ten has done.
Third, you as our fans have an opportunity to show (as you traditionally have) the power of K-State's grassroots family approach every time the Wildcats take the field and courts of competition. Your presence sends the signal of K-State's relevance to the nation. So for instance, when we play UCLA in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on September 4, having a full stadium when the game kicks off absolutely makes an impact on the perception of our entire University. Because of conference rules I am not allowed to share the details yet, but you can certainly expect there to be a significant TV audience watching that day!
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We had a busy weekend here in Manhattan as we held a dedication ceremony for our new clubhouse at Colbert Hills and also celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the opening of the course. The new clubhouse is a beautiful facility and thanks to the leadership and vision of people such as Howard Sherwood, Mary and John Vanier, Ernie Barrett and Jim Colbert, we can provide our student-athletes with a world-class experience when they come to Colbert Hills.
I would like to wish several of our teams still competing the best of luck this weekend. Our track and field teams head to Columbia, Mo., for the Big 12 Outdoor Championships, the rowing team will travel to Oak Ridge, Tenn., for NCAA Regionals and our baseball team, coming off a win against No. 1 Texas, will play the Jayhawks in a three-game Big 12 series. Friday night’s game will be in Lawrence, while Saturday (6:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) will be back at Tointon Stadium.
It is also final exams week here at K-State, and I would like to thank all of our student-athletes for their hard work on the field and in the classroom this year and wish them all the best this week as they prepare for exams. After all, they are the reason we hold the highest graduation rate in the Big 12!
On a personal note, I spent the morning of May 10, 2009, (Mother's Day!) with President Schulz, Amy Button Renz and Chuck Reagan in the Kansas City Airport Marriott for my final interview. Later that night President Schulz offered me the athletic director's position and of course I immediately accepted! The 365 days since have been action-packed and I look forward to continuing to work together as we strive for our vision of a model intercollegiate athletics program.
Thank you for your support and friendship. I look forward to seeing you at a Catbacker event soon!